A new year. New resolutions. Here are five ideas to consider to help improve your financial health in the upcoming year.
Save more for retirement. Plan for the future by feathering your retirement nest egg. For instance, you can contribute up to $20,500 to a 401(k) account in 2022, plus another $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older. Plus, your company may provide matching contributions up to a stated percentage of compensation. And you can supplement this account with contributions to IRAs and/or other qualified plans.
Update your estate plan. Now is a good time to review your will and make any necessary adjustments. For example, your will may need to be updated due to births, deaths, marriages or divorces in the family or other changes in your personal circumstances. Also review trust documents, powers of attorney (POAs) and healthcare directives or create new ones to facilitate your estate plan.
Rebalance your portfolio. Due to the volatility of equity markets, it’s easy for a portfolio to lose balance against your investment objectives. To bring things back to where you want, review your investments periodically and reallocate funds to reflect your main objectives, risk tolerance, and other personal preferences. This will put you in a better position to handle the ups and downs of the markets.
Review, consolidate, and lower debt levels. One sure-fire method for improving your financial health is to spend less and save more. Start by chipping away at any existing debts. This may mean giving up some luxuries, but it’s generally well worth it in the long run. Pay extra attention to debts with high interest charges like credit card debt. If possible, consider consolidating several of these debts into one or two obligations if you can lower your interest rate in the process.
Contingency planning. No one can foresee every twist and turn that 2022 will take. To avoid potential financial hardship, look to improve your emergency fund by setting aside enough funds to pay for six months or more of your expenses in case of events like a job loss or a severe health issue.
When tracking and planning your business objectives, it’s easy to focus your analysis on two reports — the income statement and balance sheet. But one of the primary keys to your business’s success relies more on how you handle the money flowing in and out of the business. The appearance of a solid profit can hide a lurking cash flow problem.
Here are practices to help you give your cash flow the attention it deserves:
Understand your cash position. Start with simply getting in the habit of monitoring your bank account activity daily to watch for mistakes or unforeseen charges. Then look at each business process that involves cash — purchasing, inventory, collections and payroll are good examples. Consider extending terms for paying vendors, establishing shorter terms for customers to pay and implementing a review process to ensure accurate payroll calculations. Also explore opportunities to turn over your inventory faster.
Create a cash flow statement forecast. With your knowledge of cash, create a forward-looking statement of monthly cash flow. It will reflect the ebbs and flow of cash throughout the year and identify times of cash crunch. You can then see the impact of changes you are making on your company’s cash position.
Identify relevant ratios. There are many helpful cash flow ratios. Identify ratios that are especially helpful to your business. Have debt? Consider the cash flow coverage ratio (operating cash flow ÷ by debt) to help plan for scheduled debt payments. Making a lot of capital purchases? Use the free cash flow calculation (operating cash flow – capital expenditures) to determine how much cash will be left over after the purchases.
Build in some contingencies. Most businesses experience seasonality. Understanding your business cycles can help you strategically manage cash in high cash months to cover shortfalls that come in low cash months. Set up a line of credit so it’s available in the case of an emergency, or as a bridge during short-term liquidity needs. A line of credit only charges interest only when used, so it’s a perfect tool to have at your disposal.
Watch for hidden cash hijackers. Oftentimes, large cash expenditures can be hidden on your income statement or balance sheet. A few examples are payments on capital purchases, debt obligations, dividends, guaranteed payments to partners and taxes. Income taxes, when not accounted for correctly, can cause a twofold problem — a large lump sum that is due in a short amount of time, plus a larger obligation to account for going forward. Don’t wait until the end of the year to project your tax provision.
Appoint someone to manage cash. As with many business processes, important details can fall through the cracks if there is not clear accountability as to who is responsible for the task. So assign yourself or someone you trust to manage the company’s cash flow.
When businesses fail, it’s usually because they run out of money. By making cash flow a central part of your business plan, you greatly reduce this risk.
A recent study found that 47% of American workers live “paycheck to paycheck”. The path to achieving financial milestones like paying for a college education, buying a car, owning a home or retiring at an early age always begins with one step – saving for the future. Based on this survey, many Americans aren’t saving – and are unprepared for the unexpected.
The survey also found that:
More than half knew that an emergency fund should hold six months of living expenses
However, two-thirds don’t have that amount in savings
How many don’t have any emergency fund at all? 30%!
Retirement planning – more than half don’t contribute to a 401K, IRA or other retirement plan
Two-thirds of baby boomers carry their credit card debit into retirement
Start small and start NOW. Begin with a small goal – put away $10 each week. As that reserve grows, focus on building an emergency fund with three to six months of living expenses. The unexpected can and will happen to all of us – will you be prepared?
Planning for a natural disaster requires more than just making sure you have an escape route and a case of bottled water. You need to realize the potential financial consequences of such events. Here are few smart steps we recommend.
Make electronic backups of important records including:
Bank and credit card account information
Vital records – medical, identification, etc.
Pictures and/or videos of your home and/or business
It is critical that you store this backup in a separate location that will be easy to access if your area suffers damage.
If you own a business, develop a contingency plan to get your business up and running after a disaster including steps so that your employees can work from home or elsewhere. Both businesses and families should consider how to maintain contact in an emergency – via phone trees or other methods – and these contingency plans should be reviewed every year to make sure they are up-to-date.